Friday, February 17, 2006

Healthcare

Health care is of great concern to all. Each year we pay more. As a father of five, I watch closely our healthcare costs. I have noticed my individual healthcare costs increasing while my children’s are flat. I am getting a bit older and they are still very young. My family’s unit healthcare costs are increasing slowly, but as we get older I can see them increasing ever faster. Is our society any different?

With fewer births, our society is getting older on average due to less “dilution” by babies. Therefore, the average healthcare cost will also increase. But more importantly, we have more choices than we did forty years ago. We have MRI’s, which can be used to identify problems. In the past these problems went undiagnosed and may have resulted in early death, but no additional costs. Today the MRI may lead to surgery, which is an additional cost resulting in longer life. We then have a whole host of medication to choose from. Forty years ago you took aspirin. Today you take a different pill for many different things. Each pill is better than the aspirin, but it costs significantly more.

If we want healthcare, then we need to save and set aside resources now so that they are there in the future when we get older. Our problem is that resources were never set aside to provide healthcare to seniors. Resources could have been investment in pharmaceuticals, hospitals, HMO’s, etc. As they increase in value, so would have been the ability to pay for them.

Many want affordable healthcare, but let’s face facts. A doctor goes to school for over seven years, borrows money for education, does not work full time during this time and if lucky can practice medicine in the end. The problem is their cost is over $340,000 before they even begin practicing medicine. Practicing medicine requires capital. Building and equipment costs could easily be another $625,000 of debt. Add in two nurses, a receptionist and billing specialist whom handles three other offices and I could understand a yearly cost of over $126,000 if not more. When you add in utilities, insurance labor, loans, and FICA the doctor needs to clear over $330,000 before they pay themselves a single penny.

We have all waited in the doctor's waiting room for what seems like eternity who then spends ten minutes or less with us. At ten minutes per visit, the doctor can see 48 patients a day. My doctor charges $70 a visit, which means about half his revenues, go to pay expenses. Then if we add in lab tests done in the office, his office can generate a bit more money. If we were to limit the doctor to just $200,000 a year, office fees could drop by 26%.

Dr. Hayhurst should know better than anyone else the cost involved in Medicine. He has made it clear he wants affordable healthcare for all. This is very admirable and a noble objective. As a doctor, has he been overcharging his patients for the past 30 years or just inefficient or just passing costs along? What will Dr. Hayhurst propose that is different, to save cost if elected, that he was not doing while practicing and charging us, his constituents these past years?

Because of medical break through’s, we have to answer two basic questions. How much can we afford without hurting those who are paying the bills and how much are we willing to pay?

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